Alabama: who should decide how to reallocate vacant judgeships? Senate considering two different options

Over the last several years Alabama has been considering a non-legislative mechanism to reallocate vacant (judge has died, retired, etc.) judgeships. I discussed the 2015 iterations here and here. The 2016 session now includes two bills that differ most notably in the role of the chief justice in the process.

SB 88 creates a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission made up of

  • the Chief Justice (chair)
  • the governor’s legal advisor
  • the Attorney General
  • 3 Circuit Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 District Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 2 attorneys picked by the state bar’s president

The Judicial Resources Allocation Commission would conduct an annual review and rank each district or circuit on the need to increase or decrease judgeships based on 4 criteria

  1. A Judicial Weighted Caseload Study as adopted by the Supreme Court
  2. The population of the district or circuit
  3. The “judicial duties” in the district or circuit
  4. Any other information the commission deems relevant

It would be the Commission that would move vacant judgeships based on their report/review.

SB 88 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 176 on the other hand uses the state’s existing Judicial System Study Commission to recommend to the chief justice changes. That Commission is made up of over 30 members, including

  • 6 members of the House
  • 6 members of the Senate
  • the state’s 16-member Judicial Conference
  • the Lt. Governor
  • a member of the Attorney General’s staff
  • the Governor’s legal advisor

Under SB 176 the Judicial System Study Commission would recommend changes, but it would be the Chief Justice alone who would make the decision on moving the vacancy.

SB 176 is in the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee.

Alabama Legislative Year in Review: Study business courts; merit selection for some judges; new retirement plan for judges and clerks elected/appointed after 2016

Law

HB 232 Increases small claims jurisdiction to $6,000.

SB 70 Expands merit selection system for filling interim judicial vacancies in Shelby County to include Probate Court. Requires approval by Shelby County voters. To appear on November 2016 ballot in Shelby County only.

SB 411 Establishes new retirement plans, known as Judges’ and Clerks’ Plan, for justices, judges, and circuit clerks first elected or appointed to their respective positions on or after November 8, 2016. Provides plan to operate under the Judicial Retirement Fund.

Adopted

SJR 50 Creates Business Litigation and Complex Litigation Study Committee to study possible creation of business courts/divisions.

SR 95 Requests Supreme Court advisory opinion on SB 453 regarding lotteries and gaming.

Alabama: commission to reallocate judgeships reintroduced in special session; Senate approves quickly but stalls out in House

A plan discussed here to create a special commission in Alabama to reallocate judgeships that failed in the regular session of that state’s legislature was re-introduced in a special session held this week. While the plan was quickly approved by the Senate it was once again killed in the House. With the prospects of a second special session this fall some version of the plan is likely to come back up again.

SB 33 of the First Special Session, like SB 230 of the regular session, would have created a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission made up of 11 people

  • the Chief Justice (chair)
  • the governor’s legal advisor
  • 3 Circuit Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 District Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 attorneys picked by the state bar’s president

The Commission would conduct an annual review and rank each district or circuit on the need to increase or decrease judgeships based on 4 criteria

  1. A Judicial Weighted Caseload Study as adopted by the Supreme Court
  2. The population of the district or circuit
  3. The “judicial duties” in the district or circuit
  4. Any other information the commission deems relevant

That review and ranking list would be submitted to the legislature and the governor. The Commission would, however, be able to act without a specific law to change the judgeships. Where a vacancy occurred due to death, resignation, mandatory retirement, or similar case the Commission could unilaterally move the vacancy. The move would be limited in two ways

  1. The circuit/district that loses a judgeship cannot as a result drop to the bottom 10 on the ranking list
  2. Every county is entitled to at least one District Judge

This 2015 version differs markedly as compared to the 2014 version in that the Commission would be able to move the judgeship alone; the prior version as amended would have required approval by the state’s supreme court.

SB 33B was approved by the full Senate on August 5 and made it through the House committees. It died on the House floor when the special session adjourned Tuesday.

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Since April’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments.

Alabama

While the state does not have a retirement age per se, it does prohibit judges from seeking election or being appointed to fill a vacancy if they are above the age of 70. Efforts to raise this to 72 were approved in the House and appeared to have Senate backing before time ran out in the session. Critics argued the constitutional amendment was specifically designed to allow 68 year old Chief Justice Roy Moore to seek one more term in office.

Louisiana

Despite voters in 2014 rejecting a constitutional amendment repealing the mandatory retirement age for most judges in the state, at least some judges will be able to avoid being forced out at 70. Under HB 350 as signed into law, justices of the peace in office as of August 15, 2006 can continue to run for re-election over the age of 70.

Massachusetts

A plan to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges in that state from 70 to 76 was rejected in committee in late April.

North Carolina

Several efforts to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges met with approval in the House but were not taken up by the Senate prior to adjournment. Those bills could come back up in the 2016 session.

Oregon

Voters will get to decide in 2016 whether or not to repeal the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age. Under SJR 4 as approved by the legislature in late June the constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set a retirement age would be stricken.

Virginia

Virginia appellate judges as of today (July 1), will see their mandatory judicial retirement age increase from 70 to 73 under a bill signed into law this spring. However, only those trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73; all other trial judges remain at the mandatory retirement age of 70. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had asked the legislature to amend the bill (HB 1984) to apply the increase to all judges, and the state’s Senate was willing to do so, however the House insisted on the split treatment.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan now law; Oregon voters will decide in November 2016 on repeal; Massachusetts proposal rejected

Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Since last month’s update on the subject of mandatory judicial retirement age changes there’s been several developments. The biggest stumbling block: which judges should get the increase in the age?

Maryland

The Senate approved 47-0 a plan (SB 847) to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 73 (original bill called for 75) on March 24. The Senate plan would have applied to all judges after adoption of the amendment. The House, however, had various ideas on how this would impact current judges. The House Judiciary Committee approved amendment 172916/1 which would have allowed any judge that

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, appointed, or reappointed

to stay on to 73 or the end of their current term with the consent of the governor. A later floor amendment (393229/1) added the word “re-elected”

reaches the age of seventy years before the date that the judge is eligible to be elected, re-elected, appointed, or reappointed

The changes occurred on April 9, just days before the legislature adjourned sine die. As a result, the effort failed this year.

Massachusetts

The judges of Massachusetts only fell under the state’s mandatory judicial retirement age in the 1970s (Amendment LVII adopted in 1972)

[U]pon attaining seventy years of age said judges shall be retired.

Starting in 2009 there have been efforts to increase this age to 76. The first two attempts (HB 1640 of 2009/2010 & HB 1826 of 2011/2012) were approved by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary but proceeded no further. HB 68 of 2013/2014 saw rejection by the committee. The bill is now back up as HB 1609 of 2015/2016 and was heard before the Joint Committee on April 15.

North Carolina

The House approved 116-0 on March 25 a bill that would provide a minimal extension to the state’s judicial retirement age. Currently judges must retire on the last day of the month in which they reach 72. Under HB 50 as approved they may serve last day of the year they reach 72.

A counter proposal (HB 205) to extend this to the last day of the year they reach 75. Was approved by the House Judiciary IV committee on March 18 but has remained in locked up in the House Pensions and Retirement committee.

Oregon

On April 15 the Oregon Senate approved 30-0 a plan to eliminate the state’s mandatory retirement age or, to be more precise, repeal the state constitutional provision allowing the legislature to set such an age. SJR 4 would eliminate language from the state constitution that

[A] judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of the calendar year in which he attains the age of 75 years. The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law: Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge attains the age of 70 years.

The constitutional amendment is now pending on the House Speaker’s desk awaiting committee assignment.

Virginia

After 9 years of trying, a plan to increase the retirement age for at least some judges in Virginia passed the House and Senate, but the decision to increase for some judges and not others may result in a veto by the governor.

At issue under HB 1984 and SB 1196 was what judges should get the increase from 70 to 73. The House/Senate compromise approved provided that

  • all appellate judges effective July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed after July 1, 2015 would get the increase to 73
  • trial judges elected or appointed prior to July 1, 2015 would still have to retire at 70

The governor, however, issued a “recommendation” to eliminate the three-tired plan (Virginia governors can return a bill without a veto to the legislature “with recommendations for their amendment“). The Senate voted in favor of eliminating the three-tired plan 31-8. The House rejected it 27-63. Local media reports indicate the unamended bill will now go back to the Governor as early as today (Friday) for him to sign or veto.

Continue reading Changes to mandatory judicial retirement ages: Virginia plan may fall apart over what judges get the increase; Oregon Senate unanimously approves repeal; dead in Maryland; small change moving in North Carolina; debated in Massachusetts

Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

The efforts to increase mandatory judicial retirement ages have seen a great deal of activity in the last 24 hours.

  • Alabama’s House approved 64-35 with 1 abstention a plan to increase their age from 70 to 72 after members objected to the original proposed increase to 75. The Alabama provision is not a hard and fast retirement age; instead it addresses the maximum age a judge can be in order to be elected or appointed to a judgeship.
  • Maryland’s Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee effectively had the same idea as their Alabama House counterparts, reducing a planned increase in the mandatory judicial retirement age from 70 to 75 down to 73 instead. The amended plan passed on a 7-3 vote.
  • 28 Arkansas House members left the floor or failed to vote and 2 voted “present” when that state’s effort to increase the retirement age from 70 to 72 came up for a vote. As a result, despite receiving a 49 yes vs. 21 no vote, the bill failed under a provision of the Arkansas constitution that requires a majority of the entire body (51/100) to approve a bill.

Details of all increase efforts below the fold.

Continue reading Three states voted Tuesday on increases to mandatory judicial retirement: effort dies 49-21 in Arkansas House when 28 members fail to vote; amended versions advance in AL & MD

Alabama: Plan to let special commission reallocate judgeships reintroduced; no approval role for Supreme Court in this version

A modified version of a proposal first introduced in 2014 and discussed here to redistribute judges throughout Alabama has been reintroduced in the 2015 session.

SB 230 as filed last week would create a Judicial Resources Allocation Commission made up of 11 people

  • the Chief Justice (chair)
  • the governor’s legal advisor
  • 3 Circuit Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 District Judges picked by their association’s president
  • 3 attorneys picked by the state bar’s president

The Commission would conduct an annual review and rank each district or circuit on the need to increase or decrease judgeships based on 4 criteria

  1. A Judicial Weighted Caseload Study as adopted by the Supreme Court
  2. The population of the district or circuit
  3. The “judicial duties” in the district or circuit
  4. Any other information the commission deems relevant

That review and ranking list would be submitted to the legislature and the governor. The Commission would, however, be able to act without a specific law to change the judgeships. Where a vacancy occurred due to death, resignation, mandatory retirement, or similar case the Commission could unilaterally move the vacancy. The move would be limited in two ways

  1. The circuit/district that loses a judgeship cannot as a result drop to the bottom 10 on the ranking list
  2. Every county is entitled to at least one District Judge

This 2015 version differs markedly as compared to the 2014 version in that the Commission would be able to move the judgeship alone; the prior version as amended would have required approval by the state’s supreme court.

SB 230 has been filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.